When my late husband died I wanted to pack up my house, load our kids into a moving van, and never return. No, he didn't die in our home but our dreams did.
At first every time I looked at our couch I could see him sitting on the right end of it, coffee on the side table, reading a magazine. So, I moved the couch. Since he died I've moved that couch to various places in my living room probably 20 times. I'm content with where it sits now......in a place it never sat when he lived here....right under the big picture window so that I can write and look at the clouds.
When he died I was terrified in my own home. I had lived here with him for 12 years but I felt a darkness and a fog following me everywhere. I rearranged furniture, packed away his clothes, and this helped more than you can imagine.
In the months after he died I was convinced that I was going to move. To another town and very possibly to another state. I would spend hours in the middle of the night crying and looking up houses in other towns. In my mind I have lived so many places since he died. I've tried them out in my imagination and haven't found one yet that feels like home. This was a form of escapism for me. To escape my deep and dark and ravaging pain at 3:00am......I would research a new place to live. Maybe by the ocean. Maybe somewhere where the sun never stops shining. Maybe somewhere where there are endless new forests to explore.
But this house. This house is my home. It wasn't just his home. I peeled layers and layers of wallpaper from each room in the house when we moved in. I pulled out old carpeting on 90 degree days. I planted all the plants and flowers around outside. I cleaned out the basement. I decorated our children's rooms. And I even painted the outside of our house and garage while he was at work all while our little baby girl lay in the grass playing all those years ago. My life is wrapped around this house. I was 24 years-old when I moved in here with him. 26 years old when we got married. I hosted countless get togethers here for our friends. Barbecues, sleep over's with my girlfriends when he would be away on fishing or snowmobiling trips. I surprised him with his first ever dog and now my forever friend.....Ruby.....when I was 27 years old. I sat on this couch when my Grandma died 2 days after our wedding. I sat on this couch crying when my Uncle died when I was 5 months pregnant with our daughter. I was 31 years-old when we brought our first baby home to this house and snuggled her on this very couch. I was 33 years old when we brought our baby boy home to join his sister. And I was 35 years old when I sat on this very couch in the middle of the night wailing for hours because he had left me via a bullet to his beautiful heart.
I go back and forth. Back and forth. I love my home. I yearn for adventure and a new beginning. But you know what? I have built a life right on top of my burnt down one. I have made this house my home, my children's home. It's full of pink and their beautiful artwork and two dogs on the couch and a cat in the window and books, books everywhere. What have I learned? You can't run from your pain. You can't pack it all up and start over and leave the grief and darkness behind you. It will follow you. It will follow you everywhere you go. So, for the past almost 2 years my children and I have decided....together......to stay in this little house of ours. It feels way too big but we have hopes to fill the empty spaces with more books, art, photographs of our nature adventures, animals, and someday maybe a new love story. "Mama? Did you know we have room in our hearts to love another guy? We do! Do you think he'll like campfires and nature exploring? Can he row a canoe? Where will he sit on the couch?"
Will I stay here forever? I can't tell you the answer to that. I'm a gypsy at heart. Always have been, always will be. My late husband knew that and I think it's part of what he loved most about me......My adventurous heart and open attitude about new experiences. He always wanted to move even for one year and try out a new town in the mountains, along side a little creek, out in the Pacific Northwest.......somewhere that he could really find out who he was.
I love my little life I have built on top of all of my pain. I have amazing kids, two dogs I adore, a cat that sits with me and purrs while I write, friends that I cherish......most of whom I have only met since my late husband died......, my children have countless friends here that they love, my family is here in this town, and I have a roof over all of our heads to keep us warm and safe. I am working every day on my dreams of writing, guiding others in their grief journey, and getting women out into nature.
Do I still long to run away sometimes? Yes. Probably once-a-month I at least research somewhere to go explore. I dream of one day in a couple years when my children are a little older.......renting out my house to a friend and heading off on the road with my kids, dogs, and cat to explore the country. I also dream of a letter arriving in the mail saying some amazing human is giving me a vacation for just me....no kids/no dogs....to go sit on a beach somewhere beautiful and reveal in the fact that I made it.....I made it this far without running away. I made it this far and I am joyful and reaching my hand out to help others in their suffering. Someday I will sit on that beach with my big sun hat on, all by myself, and I will cry. Tears of sadness? No. Tears of pure joy in my soul that I can't believe that I am still alive and that I have found my purpose in life and I never just ran away to try to hide away my personal shame from my husband dying by suicide.
So to YOU.....To the young woman or man who wants to run away because of tragedy, heartbreak, or other. Please remember that our inner pain travels with us everywhere we go. We have to do the inner work, take the time to let our hearts heal, find our self-love........and only then can we really decide where we belong in the world.
Where do I belong? I belong to all the places I have ever been. I belong in the forest and by the ocean. But for right now on this very day....I belong on this couch, in this....MY house, writing my heart out to help others and myself heal.